NBAA-BACE 2019: Aviation experts predict urban air taxis to fly commercially by 2024


A panel of experts has predicted electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing aircraft could be in use within urban areas within the next four years.

Speaking at the NBAA-BACE 2019 event in Las Vegas during a panel discussion on Urban Air Mobility (UAM), Lindsey McFarren, president of McFarren Aviation Consulting, which works with manufacturers and future operators to develop UAM vehicles and ensure regulatory compliance, said such an aircraft could be certified by the FAA as soon as during 2023.

McFarren said, “The technology has improved so rapidly, UAM has moved from a pipe dream to an eventuality really quickly and on the regulatory side there is an appetite for it to advance.”

Most on the panel believed that the FAA would be the first regulator to certify an electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft within the next five years, although they also believed that EASA’s standardized approach to eVTOL certification would be beneficial for the aircraft type’s development in Europe.

The numerous challenges to operating eVTOLs was also raised. Paul McDuffee, business development executive at Boeing Horizon X said, ““The 64-million-dollar question is how to integrate these into an airspace that was never designed to accommodate these things.

“They are not really suited to 400ft and below – we’re looking at above that for these vehicles. NASA are doing a lot of work to research and test how the current aerospace structure can be modified to accommodate these vehicles and the interest has risen to a point where the industry is coming up with solutions.”

McDuffee also cited public acceptance of the aircraft as a potential barrier, but insisted that the vehicles would become a commercial reality. “I’ve been in aviation for 50 years and I’m in the sunset of my career, and I’m convinced that this technology is here to stay.”

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 20 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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